There is a chalk drawing near the side entrance to the sanctuary of our church which has rested there for years.  It has brought joy to me throughout my time here at SPC. I love sitting on the  steps next to it drinking my morning coffee.  It’s a good place to think through my sermon for Sunday. During COVID, it was a place for prayer. A makeshift chapel  when we weren’t able to go into the sanctuary. It was drawn during a family fellowship event and has found a place and presence with us over the years.  It wasn’t a planned activity. I like to think it was a gift of the Spirit.

It’s funny how long it has endured. Being made of chalk, I assumed that it would fade away eventually, but its location under the canopy of our front entrance has protected it from the rain, wind, and yes, sometimes snow. This picture has often found its place as a banner on our Facebook page. It is colorful and it has a simple, beautiful message:  faith, hope, believe, love. 

As we have started steps towards a new move, I’ve thought a lot about this chalk drawing. I will miss seeing it when I’m walking on the church grounds. In many ways, it tells a story of our congregation. As we transition to a new place of worship, there is hard work being done to make our new building feel like home. We have worked hard together to prepare for the move, but still there are questions that will be answered over time.What will worship be like? Where and how will we do fellowship? Will people be able to find us? Most importantly, with all the changes, will we still be ‘us’?  

One of the changes over the next few months will be a new church website. PEVA has graciously provided grants for churches to update their presence online. While attending a visioning meeting with members of our congregation a website developer asked us to describe our congregation. Our goal was to think of a new church logo to identify and market our church. As we shared our thoughts over Zoom, words from this chalk drawing were woven in our discussion, describing our rich history as a church family and our passion for ministry.

Through challenges and blessings we have held strong and have a wonderful story to tell. Like this chalk drawing, we are the little church that keeps going, no matter what. For as we are told in Luke 1:37 “For nothing will be impossible with God.” As we pack away our treasures and prepare for the big move we do so with hope. Through prayer, scripture, and faith we have been given a path forward. This is just the beginning of something new. I am excited to see what this next chapter has in store for us. No matter the elements, we endure…and we do so with joy and love. 

I want to end by thanking each and every one of you for your hard work throughout this transition. It is because of you that we are able to move forward in a sustaining ministry. Your faith, hope, belief, and love is why we are a success story.  

Enjoy these last moments in our church home. Share your stories and laughter, knowing that the next chapter is just around the corner.  In closing, I wish to leave you with these words from Romans 15:13:

May the God of hope fill you with all the joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

By Rev. Julie Sterling

Summer is quickly approaching. The changing of seasons brings new life all around us. Graduations and summer breaks cause a new rhythm to emerge, inviting us to slow down a bit, and journey through life more leisurely. There is a joy that accompanies this time of year. Summer is a time to make memoires, go on adventures, and take much needed sabbath rests. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air’. With changing schedules comes a different pace in the life of the church. Programs that run during the school year wind down, giving space for new experiences and opportunities. In some cases, church participation wavers a bit. Regular attendance may become less frequent as we relax by the beach or go on vacations and mini breaks. 

Yet our life with God never takes a break. 

This past week I as I was preparing for worship, I came across a passage from Psalm 139:

O LORD, you have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

          you discern my thoughts from far away.

You search out my path and my lying down,

          and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

          O LORD, you know it completely.

You hem me in, behind and before,

          and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

          it is so high that I cannot attain it.

King David’s words are a reminder that God’s presence is constant and unwavering and his love is sure. He knows us intimately and walks each step of our lives with us…and sometimes he goes with us on an adventure. In my daily devotion ‘Daily Feast’ it states “Wherever we go, God is there; nothing we do goes unnoticed by God”. What does it mean for you to be known and loved by God? What assurance does this truth give you about your life with God?

The summer months may alter your normal routine but there is always time for God.  In fact, it is good to change things up a bit and take a deep breath. Often when we have time away from everyday life we are awoken to God working in new ways. The Psalm 139 reading from Daily Feast concludes with the following response: “Where are you traveling this summer? Be open to the places where you will see God.”

I look forward to our time together this season. We have some fun activities planned for the summer and I am excited for these moments of fellowship as a church family.  We also have a great deal of work ahead of us as we prepare for our big move.  It may seem overwhelming but remember the words of Isaiah 58:11: “Where God guides, he provides”.  

Enjoy your time this summer and remember that God is always near, leading you as you go.

By Rev. Julie Sterling

The empty cross and the empty tomb are a cornerstone of our faith. The good news of our risen Lord is the foundation of the church today.  As we journey through the final weeks of the Easter season and transition to Pentecost,  it is clear that the story isn’t over. God’s promise for his people isn’t complete on Easter. 19th century South African Minister Andrew Murray suggests, “The Spirit did everything on the Day of Pentecost and afterwards. It was the Spirit who gave the boldness, the wisdom, the message and the converting power”. In John 14:16-17 Jesus tells his disciples “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”  We rejoice in knowing that God entrusts us to build his kingdom after Jesus’ resurrection and equips us to do so with the help of the Spirit.

In our Pentecost story, the disciples are gifted the Holy Spirit after Christ’s ascension. In Acts 2: 1-4 it states:

 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

The disciples had been waiting for the Spirit to appear as Jesus commanded in Acts 1:4 before his ascension “ While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me;”.  This event occurs on the Jewish festival of Pentecost. Why did God choose this moment to equip the church for ministry? According to Leonard Goffine, a late 17th century German Priest suggests:

“Because on their Pentecost the Jews celebrated the anniversary of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, and God would show by sending the Holy Ghost on this day, that the Old Law had ceased and the New Law commenced. God also chose this time, that the Jews who on this day came together from all countries to Jerusalem to celebrate the Pentecost, might be witness of the miracle, and hear the New Law announced by the apostles.” Most of the significant events in Jesus’ ministry occurred during religious festivals so it makes sense for the Spirit to to be introduced in the same way.

God has given us a gift beyond gifts in the Spirit, a reminder that we are not alone on this journey. Considering this, what significance does the story of Pentecost have for the modern church? More importantly, what does it mean  to have the Spirit guiding us in our daily work? In N. T Wright’s book, “The Challenge of Easter” he states: “You are called to be truly human, but it is nothing short of the life of God within you that enables you to be so, to be remade in God’s image.” Write goes on to say “Your calling may be to find new ways to tell the story of redemption, to create fresh symbols that will speak of a home for the homeless, the end of exile, the replanting of the garden, the rebuilding of the house.”

I invite you to consider how the Spirit is working in you and what you can do together in the name of God. What reassurance does the story of Pentecost give our congregation as we start on a new adventure? 

When “I Am” becomes “Us Too” 

Jesus Christ is risen!

The stone has been rolled away and we rejoice in the empty tomb. The long journey of Lent has been replaced by shouts of hallelujah. Our Savior lives, he lives in us today.

Easter Sunday has come and passed, yet the Spirit of the season remains. As we count down the weeks until Pentecost, we rejoice with the good news that the gift of the Holy Spirit is with us; guiding us as we continue the story of God through us.  How can we honor what Christ has accomplished for us on the cross? We are called to talk up the cross and follow in his way. 1 Peter 2:1 says “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps and Matthew 11:29 Jesus proclaims, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.” One of the best ways to model our lives after Jesus is to ask ourselves the qualities of Jesus that are most important to us.  

What do we see when we close our eyes and think of Jesus? During our lenten season we focused on the “I Am” statements of Jesus. In the study Jesus Revealed: The I Am Statements in the Gospel of John, Matt Rawle shared 7 “I Am” statements” found in the Gospels: I am the light of the world; I am the bread of life;  I am the good shepherd;I am the gate; I am the true vine; I am the way, the truth, and the life; and I am the resurrection and the life.  Each one of these “I Am” statements” may have their own special meanings to us. There may be one in particular that registers with us more than others. Rawel suggests to look at them like lenses stacked on each other, so that each statement is part of the whole artistic expression of “I Am”:

“Our role is to keep pointing to this work of art and welcoming others Into understanding that  God’s story, through grace, is our story. We Are called to offer our own drama, our own art to the body of Christ, extending the frame of God’s grace to neighbor and enemy alike until The curtain falls on God’ drama with a new heaven and new earth.”

How can we be the same compassion, comfort, hope, and sustaining faith while providing for the needs of others? How can “I Am” be “Us Too”?

Over the next few months we will be using the “I Am” statements of Jesus to guide us as we discern our next steps as a church. What will our ministry look like? How do we hold on to what is important while changing location? How might it evolve and change? Maybe the best way to do so is by defining who we are in relation to our life with God; our “I Am” statement.  We will have opportunities through “non traditional” services and fellowship activities to work as a congregation to hash some of these things out together. On April 7th we will focus on what it means to be  connected to God and to one another as branches of “the true vine”. What can we do as a congregation to bear fruit and what might need pruning? In other words, what can we do to be at our best for Jesus? 

Baptist Theologian Augustus Hopkins Strong stated that “Christianity is summed up in two facts: Christ for us and Christ in us”. We are Easter people. We believe that Jesus lives. Just imagine what all we can do with Jesus working through us? Let us embrace what we have learned and know about Jesus so we can better continue God’s story and make it our own, so that “I Am” includes “Us Too”. 

In Isaiah 58, the prophet exclaims, “Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in” . As the people of Israel returned from the cloud of exile and struggled to rebuild their lives, Isaiah questioned their efforts: Are you not called “to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them?” (Isaiah 58:7).

Then in Matthew 25, we hear Jesus calling to us, “For I was hungry and you gave me food … I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing. … As you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me”.

Isaiah and Jesus are making an important theological point: faithfulness to God causes us to find solutions that will mend broken things— broken lives, broken spirits, broken hearts, broken relationships—things that happen to all of us throughout our lives.

When we give to the One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) offering on Easter Day, we are combining our efforts with those across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to repair peoples’ lives — people who are hurting, broken, oppressed, lost or on the margins of society. The exact people about whom Isaiah and Jesus are speaking. The people we are called to connect with every day, but especially in the light of the Good News of the resurrection.

I invite you to visit the OGHS website (pcusa.org/oghs) to find all sorts of information on how your gift helps people all over the world and offer prayers for those who will receive monetary support through this offering. Small changes which, when added together here and around the globe, make huge differences in the lives of our siblings in need. 

It also happens that this year is the 75th anniversary of One Great Hour of Sharing—this is the perfect opportunity for our congregation to recommit to our participation in this important opportunity to do our part to participate in God’s ongoing repair of the world God so loves. There will be a special offering on Easter Sunday and Gracie Fish Banks will be available for each family to donate to support our Youth Ministry. 

That brings me to my challenge. I challenge each of you to increase your gift to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering to benefit Presbyterian ministries to combat hunger, provide assistance after disaster strikes, and to work with sustainable community development. It is my hunch that you will see how giving opens your heart to God’s work in your own life. I hope that you’ll join us this Easter Season as we collect this offering and tangibly witness to the repairing love of God in Jesus Christ through One Great Hour of Sharing. 

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Julie

The season of Lent is one of my favorite times of year. Even though it is traditionally thought of as a time of restraint and discipline, I look forward to the time we spend together as a congregation during our 40 day journey to Easter. We use this season as a time of reflection;  to grow in faith and improve ourselves for God.  Lent is a shift in perspective, from the awareness of who Jesus is during Epiphany to the reality of his sacrifice on the cross. The ashes at the beginning of Lent illuminate our human brokenness and our need for salvation through Jesus.  Through study, prayer, various activities, and mission projects we are able to take time out of our busy schedules for God. 

Each year our Lenten discipline has reflected our needs as a community of faith. Through study, prayer, and various activities and mission projects we have come together as a family.  I am reminded of an African Proverb, “If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. Each one of these experiences have allowed us to share time with each other and strengthen our bonds as a church family. 

This year I thought long and hard about how we would best use this time of preparation. Is there something special that our congregation needs right now? After much thought, I realized how Lent could be a perfect time to reflect on what we have learned from Project Regeneration and use that to pave a way forward as a church.  I stumbled upon the study “Jesus Revealed: the I Am Statements of Jesus” and thought, what better way to be led through challenge than through Jesus’ own words. Hopefully this time of study and fellowship will help us to see our future path more clearly and do so with faith and confidence in what lies ahead. To quote Arthur Ashe ‘Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

I invite you to enjoy the journey. Know that this experience is a rare gift. Not only does it allow our hearts to be ready for the good news of Easter, but it also gives us a rare opportunity to consider what it means to be Easter people. I leave you now with this simple prayer to bless these next steps together. 

Prayer for Travellers

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

The rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hands.

In the story of God, as we tell it, there is a barrier
that exists between the Created world and its
Creator. A wall. Sin, we believe, separates us
from God, and separation from God is
unbearable.
Our story goes on to tell us that God, seeing that
we had no hope in ourselves of getting over, or
through or around what separates us, offered us a
gift in Jesus Christ, who opens a door — a door
we could not open ourselves.
What a gift!
But the story goes on to say that Jesus is the
perfect gift; not only opening a door but coming
through it. Our story says God is with us.
In Jesus, God joined with humanity, pointing the
way to the end of our separation. And in his life,
death and resurrection, so our story of God goes,
Jesus is the door, now standing open. The giving
continues because God is with us, still — and
always.
Because being with us is part of God’s story,
being with others is part of our call.
During this Advent Season, we are called to
support the Christmas Joy Offering, to celebrate
God’s perfect gift and open doors for those we

might not be able to meet face to face, but who
need the support that our gifts provide.
We support the potential of students of color who
are becoming leaders in our churches and
communities as we seek to come alongside them,
to encourage and to open doors. And we support
church workers and their families who encounter
critical financial needs as we come alongside
them, to assist them — we open doors for them.
We thank God for being “with us” through the
gift of Jesus and for joining us together as the
Church and, through our gifts, with those who
have need.
The story of God, as we tell it, is not about a
barrier, but about a gift. It’s not about the
separation, but about the gift of “being with.”
Please give generously to the Christmas Joy
Offering, in celebration of God’s perfect gift to
us. Give because it brings us together, to open
doors of relief and opportunity and to
relationships that are part of God’s story, a part
of God’s perfect gift to us.
Our gifts reflect our generous God. Our gifts
support leaders in our Church and world — past,
present and future.
https://specialofferings.pcusa.org